When the lives of the British royals are put under the microscopic lens of the UK tabloids, there is no-where to hide, not behind the palace gates nor behind the false pretences of a ceremonial title. A master of manipulation, the British press possesses the capability to harness the minds of the masses through a few simple words, a power once reserved for leaders and the royals themselves.
Just as we once believed Kate Middleton to be the social climber of St Andrews, who was “strategic” in her pursuit of Prince William, the noble who fell for her “dull” charm then transformed into the darling of the nation. She soon became the epitome of femininity and British virtue, respectable and discreet and the embodiment of the patient mother. Then came Meghan, the older “divorcee”. To Kate’s virtuosity Meghan was assigned the role of being her opposite – the protagonist – political, manipulative and career focused. Whilst some may dismiss this comparison as mere gossip, this is not a superficial battle between tabloids but a war of cultural beliefs that is integral to understanding a truly patriarchal system that embodies the British press and emboldens both misogynistic and racist undertones of current social discourse, aiming to entertain and degrade.
The divide between the two sides is painfully apparent, with Kate representing the ideals of the traditionalists, whilst Meghan embodies all that represents modern womanhood being outspoken and actively progressive. The two women have become iconic representatives of a prevailingly polarised world.
We, as a society, love to compare the supposed successes of some to the pitfalls of others, especially when it comes to the choices of women. It is important to note here how the characters of Prince William and Prince Harry, despite having very different approaches to royal life, are not depicted as such vicious cultural opponents in the same manner. To escape the misogyny of the headlines, one must remain conformist to the views of the masses, and often the racial beliefs that accompany them.
When Meghan entered the royal stage, it was evident that the headlines surrounding the once “royal shame” that was Kate Middleton, became indisputably more amiable. The “wardrobe malfunctions” and “smug” persona that were once her forte, become positive celebrations of the “smiling mother” who evidently was making the right choices. This new imagery surrounding Kate and Meghan continues to manifest itself in an overtly racist manner that truly is displaying the ideals of the strong respectable mother as synonymous with the ‘English rose’, a depiction far less attainable to anyone who doesn’t represent either ‘britishness’ or whiteness. The language used to indicate Meghan’s race has exacerbated her inability to fit this mould, as she represents the “rich and exotic” foreigner who is “gang scarred”, “unorthodox” and “ungrateful”, clear parallels with colonial narratives being drawn.
The “English rose” also wilts under the spotlight, being donned as privileged and self-righteous, every move is still watched and judged. Perhaps not by the same standards but with the same obsessive eye for reducing female behaviour to something that underpins standards of class and virtue.
As long as both sides are equally appeased, the battle of the princesses prevails and so do the issues surrounding it. Whilst many believe in siding with Kate, they are defending both tradition and the integrity of the Queen and others believe that in championing Meghan they fight for diversity and progression, we overlook the idea that these two women are not simply women, nor royals nor celebrities – they are human. As the press get their fix and stir pre-existing tensions, the in-group out-group dynamic of the masses becomes further sustained by hurriedly consuming all things celebrity, we forget and become misty-eyed to institutional sexism and racism.
When the personal choices of celebrity figures become representative of what women stand for, all women suffer. When the standard is set between the doting mother and the outspoken activist, we become obsessed with making nothing into something, and taking everything to its extremity. Both women are mothers, both women have political interests, both women have personal histories full of personal choices that are not aiming to be headlines but simply reflect their existence as people. By polarising these women and picking apart their lives we overlook what lies behind them, the establishment, the “Firm” and it’s corrupt relationship with the press that encourages misogyny, its dated constitution that seems to perpetuate racism, the institution that binds them both.
– Lotti Norman
Featured Image Source: Pexels